Last year, the San Diego Padres started the season with a 15-12 record in April, a 19-9 record in May, and a 15-12 record in June, then faded in the second half going 26-43 to end the season in third place behind the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
This year, the Padres have winning records in April through June but have started July with a 2-4 record. Worse, during Wednesday’s game against the Giants, C.J. Abrams and Jurickson Profar collided, leaving Profar unable to walk off the field. He’s been diagnosed with a concussion and neck strain.
Even the most ardent Padres fans have to be wondering if this is “Déjà Vu All Over Again.”
That phrase has been attributed to Hall-of-Fame catcher and outfielder Yogi Berra. Known for his malaprops, Yogi also opined that “baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” Singer John Fogerty also used the phrase in a song about Vietnam (a matter of life and death that cannot be compared to the fate of a sports team). Still, the lyrics fit the situation as the Padres prepare for the near future with a gimpy Manny Machado, an absent Fernando Tatis Jr., an injured Profar (who is third in RBI at 38, behind Machado at 47 and Jake Cronenworth at 43), as well as a struggling offense:
Did you hear ’em talkin’ ’bout it on the radio
Did you try to read the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I’ve heard it all before
It’s like Deja Vu all over again
“This has been our worst stretch of the season,” manager Bob Melvin admitted after 8-2 and 6-2 losses to the 41-42 Seattle Mariners. He also bemoaned the team’s “sloppy” play: “The defense always been there, the effort’s been there. It has not the last few games, and it’s our job to address it and make sure we get going in the right direction again.”
The Padres have the advantage of an experienced manager in Melvin. Last year Jayce Tingler, who had never managed at the major league level, was obviously in over his head and had lost the respect of at least some players.
Under Tingler, the promising 2021 season turned into a 79-83 disappointment. After three positive months and a 53-40 record, the team went downhill, ending the second half with a 26-43 record:
This year the Padres have a 47-36 record, .566 winning percentage, and are 21-18 at home and
28-18 on the road. Like last year, the team has gotten off to a good start through June.
After staying close to the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego now finds itself six games out, having lost three of four to the Dodgers over the weekend. In July so far, the Padres have lost four games and won two.
A. J. Preller (president of baseball ops and general manager) learned from last year’s subpar pitching, a season in which only Joe Musgrove had a winning record (11-9, 3.18 ERA). The rest of the staff struggled:
Yu Darvish 8-11 .422
Blake Snell 7-6 .420
Chris Paddack 7-7 5.07
Ryan Weathers 4-7 5.32
Preller added Sean Manaea and Nick Martinez (who has acted as starter and reliever). He also brought up top prospect MacKenzie Gore, who lost most of 2020 thanks to COVID-19 and struggled through last season in the minors. Although Gore pitches as he belongs, the Padres will have to watch his innings as the season progresses.
So far, only Manaea and Snell (a total mystery) have losing records. The version of Snell, which won the American League Cy Young Award just four years ago, has been AWOL in San Diego. Overall though, Padres starters have been a definite improvement over last year’s.
Joe Musgrove 8-2 2.25
Yu Darvish 7-4 3.53
Sean Manaea 3-4 4.18
MacKenzie Gore 4-3 3.18
Blake Snell 1-5 4.66
Mike Clevinger 2-1 3.34
Nick Martinez 3-3 3.68
Although the pitching has improved, the offense has struggled from the beginning, thanks in part to the absence of Tatis Jr. and Machado’s injured ankle. The latter leads the team with a .315 average and 47 runs batted, followed by
Nomar Mazara .301, 13 RBI;
Eric Hosmer .272, 33 RBI
Jose Azocar .257, 7 RBI
Jake Cronenworth .240 43 RBI
Ha-Seong Kim .233 27 RBI
Austin Nola .233, 23 RBI
Luke Voit .229 35 RBI
Trent Grisham .186 32 RBI.
C.J. Abrams .210, 8 RBI
No doubt Preller has been working the phones already in anticipation of the August 2 trade deadline. Last year the Padres and the Dodgers breeched the luxury tax threshold, and the Padres paid an additional $1.29 million. However, rumors indicate that ownership may leery of doing so again.
Also, Preller has used many of the team’s talented minor league players as trade bait. Last year their minor league talent ranked eighth according to bleacherreport.com. This year, San Diego has fallen to 16th, and three of those minor leaguers have been called up, including Abrams, Campusano, and Gore. Outfielders Robert Hassell, James Wood, and Joshua Mears; shortstop Jackson Merrill, infielder Euribiel Angeles, and pitchers Robert Gasser and Kevin Kopps round out the top ten.
Despite the team’s weaknesses, the Padres remain on a pace to win 92 games. The improved starting rotation and the return of Tatis Jr. bode well for San Diego. According toteamrankings.com, the Padres will win 90.8 games, second to the Dodgers at 103.0 in the National League West. Despite an 82.9 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, the Padres’ chances of winning the division fall to 5.8 percent, and the chances of winning the World Series to 3.5 percent.
Fortunately, the games aren’t played by prognosticators in offices but by men on the field. With the improved pitching staff, the return of Tatis Jr., and the guidance of manager Bob Melvin, the San Diego Padres have a good chance to at least win a Wild Card berth. It helps that the 2022 Giants do not resemble the team that won the West 107-55, one game over the Dodgers 106-56.
Of course, the ultimate “déjà vu all over again” would be meeting the New York Yankees in the World Series. In 1998, the second of San Diego’s trips to the series, the Yankees won 4-0. The 2022 Yankees are on a pace to win 117 games, one more than the single-season records of 116 shared by the 2001 Seattle Mariners and 1906 Chicago Cubs.